Up 87-81 with only a few minutes to play, it felt like the Lakers had their mojo back. But just as they have all year, the defending champs couldn’t close as Dallas ended on a 17-5 to win 98-92 and push the Lakers from worried to dead. L.A.’s final minutes read like a movie script from a drunk screenwriter: no one could solve the Dirk Nowitzki (32 points) high post-up, and the German either scored or found wide-open shooters. Derek Fisher fouled Jason Terry (23 points) on an offensive rebound when they didn’t have to and then threw the ball away on the ensuing inbounds pass. On another possession, Kobe Bryant (17 points) saw Lamar Odom (18 points) wide open and said, “Screw it. Imma hit this fallaway 25-footer.” It wasn’t close. The Lakers fell apart offensively and couldn’t even handle Peja Stojakovic‘s (15 points, two late treys) statue on the other end. Andrew Bynum (21 points, 10 rebounds) was murdering everyone and had 16 field-goal attempts through 38 minutes. He never took another shot. The Lakers have been awful in close games all season. We hate to say it, but one of the reasons is Kobe. He just won’t pass the ball (last night, he actually did give it up a little), and seems like he’s lost the ability to continuously rise up and make the big shots. On a night that saw Bryant pass his buddy Shaq to move into third all-time in career playoff points, it doesn’t feel right criticizing him … Still, it’s hard to win, no matter who you are, when you can’t stop the opposition. We think it’s definitive now after three games: Dallas can do whatever they want offensively. It’s sad how bad they are cooking the Lakers. If Peja didn’t go 2002 Game 7 on us in the second quarter, the Mavs would’ve been up big at the half. Even with that, Nowitzki was completely unstoppable and every one of Terry’s buckets was “Big Testicles” worthy. Dallas hit their first four threes, and had the Lakers thinking deja vu by the end of the first quarter. It was such lazy defense that Jackson got animated for the first time since he watched Dances With Wolves while he went after Pau Gasol (12 points) on the sideline. We would be too if our guys were leaving the best big-man shooter on the planet wide open at the three-point line. If there was ever a time that the Zen Master was going to get physical, it would’ve been last night. He was so frustrated, he looked like he wanted to knock the red off Heather Cox during the end-of-quarter interview … Pau Gasol? We are just going to leave that one alone. At least it appeared that he and Kobe were on speaking terms. It’s L.A., can’t the Lakers just pay some hot broad to walk around with him? … We had to laugh at the start of the second quarter when Joe Smith checked in. Jeff Van Gundy pointed out that the big man does have some talent, that remember, he was the number-one pick in the Draft at one point. Um, Jeff, that was nearly 20 years ago … Derrick Rose doesn’t want anyone mispronouncing his name anymore. His 44-point masterpiece was basically screaming “F$%^ you Dick Stockton!” all night long. Rose had a rough opening to this series, but made up for it yesterday in the Bulls 99-82 win in Atlanta. He did it all for the Bulls, pulling up off screens or going all the way to the hoop, exposing Atlanta. After the Hawks had cut into Chicago’s lead late in the fourth quarter, Rose scored eight straight, including a pull-back three that ripped the net to put the Bulls back up 19. He had the entire game working, all the way to the rim, threes, midrange floaters. In fact, Rose scored 12 in the paint, 12 from midrange, 12 from beyond the arc and eight from the line. Chicago still really didn’t play all that well. Rose just blinded us … Throughout the first quarter, Jeff Teague (21 points) was matching Rose shot for shot. They hit their first nine shots combined and Teague had people throwing out Tony Parker comparisons … How many times is Josh Smith going to block Carlos Boozer‘s left-handed takes? He does it over and over. In the third quarter, Boozer finally got one over Smith, but to do it, he had to give him a forearm shiver to the chest for an offensive foul … Al Horford (10 points) and Smith have been stuck in another element for this entire series. Smith (17 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks) finally got it together last night during the second half, and played one of his best 24 minutes of the playoffs. Still, he was 0-6 from 16 feet and out, which makes him 0-17 from that distance this series. When the fans start groaning the minute you set to shoot, as they do with Smith on the wing, that has to blow. It’s like going to your own movie premiere and having people already assuming, “This s$%^ sucks” even as the opening scene drops … We hope they made Horford and Joe Johnson (10 points) pay full price to get into the club last night. And damn, we completely forgot Nick Van Exel was on the Atlanta bench. What exactly is he teaching these guys? We get this feeling that putting Van Exel around Smith isn’t a good idea … We’re out like the Lakers in a close game.
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